Former Scholars

Joseph RyanJoseph Ryan - 2012 Scholar

Contested Past: Museums, Heritage and Ethno-Nationalism in Post-Conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina

I spent six weeks in Bosnia-Hercegovina carrying out research focussed on the heritage and museum industries of the country in order to discover how they have been shaped by ethno-nationalism, and how ethno-nationalism, in turn, has been shaped by these industries. Twenty years since the beginning of the Bosnian War, I endeavoured to find out how the socio-political climate—and the lingering tensions between Bosnia’s constituent peoples—has shaped the ways in which public information manifests itself.

The time I spent in Bosnia—in Sarajevo and in Mostar—is one that I will undoubtedly cherish for a lifetime. A truly unforgettable experience; pursuing a project of my own making in an astonishingly beautiful country with an incredible and dense multi-cultural heritage was a liberating and exciting experience. I feel very fortunate to have had such an experience—one that I am very grateful to the Peter Kirk Scholarship Fund for.

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Julie KaminskaJulie Kaminska - 2012 Scholar

Is there a place for Polish in Great Britain?

For my project I investigated the problem of the polish emigration in the UK. I concentrated on the migrants who came to Britain after Poland joined the EU in 2004. In my research I wanted to find out how the Polish assimilate in the UK and what are the benefits of the British people in having such a large group of Polish citizens in their country.

To carry out my project I have travelled around the UK and interviewed many Polish and British people. As a result I have made a lot of friends with whom I am in contact even today after completing my project. Another result of undertaking my research is that I have learned how to work independently and systematically under a large project and also I have develop my critical thinking skills. These skills are very helpful in my studies and also will be useful in the future.

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Lukas SlothuusLukas Slothuus - 2012 Scholar

Looking East, looking West: Turkey in Europe?

My project looked at Turkey's role in Europe explored through creative expressions, primarily street art. The project involved considering how Western influences on culture are expressed through altering the physical landscape of Istanbul, a city with a hugely burgeoning street art scene. Studying graffiti was a sort of short-cut that enabled me to interpret culture despite the obstacle of not speaking any Turkish.

I had an amazing time, spending 7 weeks in Turkey, taking over a thousand photos. The Peter Kirk scholarship gave me the opportunity to experience Istanbul, one of the world's most interesting cities in terms of history, culture, politics and religion. Moreover, the scholarship allowed me to spend enough time in the country to start 'settling in' and it was thus much more than a regular, short trip - it was an unforgettable experience and I learnt so much about Istanbul, Turkey, street art, photography, and myself!

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Eleanor StarkEleanor Stark - 2012 Scholar

A study on the perception of deafness in Germany amongst young people, with reference to my personal experience through volunteering in Britain

For my project I spent 6 amazing weeks in Berlin looking at deafness in Germany. I wanted in particular to find out young people's experiences being deaf and whether this was any different to young people in England. Although my German was already pretty good and i knew enough British Sign Language to get by, all Sign Languages are different so I realised I'd have to learn German Sign Language in order to get the most out of the project. This was a daunting task but turned out to be hugely rewarding; I just had to 'learn on the job'. Everyone was friendly and helpful though and tried to explain anything I didn't understand, and being surrounded by the language I picked it up quite quickly.

As Sign Language is very expressive, I decided before I went to produce a short film of my experience, rather than an essay. It meant I had to conduct interviews for the camera which was hard at first, but the Peter Kirk mentors gave me some great advice. I'm currently producing the footage and its great to have a memento of the friends I made and their stories and experiences growing up deaf.

The entire trip was amazing. Some of my highlights include clubbing with a group of deaf people (though the music was so loud it hurt my ears) and being able to chat all night despite the music; visiting a lake near Berlin on a gorgeously hot day and being bullied into the freezing but so refreshing water; meeting the cutest little deaf toddlers; and most of all the people I met and friends I made. I also had some pretty deep reflection on my own attitude to deafness and my relationship with my Mum, who is deaf. And seeing how other people reacted to deafness was fascinating too; some were more than helpful while others were the complete opposite. A real eye-opener. Hopefully my film will reflect all of this! It was honestly the best experience it could have been and I'm so grateful to the Peter Kirk Fund for enabling me to do it.

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Marco KesselerMarco Kesseler - 2012 Scholar

Gjakmarrja: Blood Feuds in Albania

The Kanun Code, which historically spanned the Balkans since the 15th century was a set of customary laws divided into six sections as guides on how people should live their lives. One of the categories focuses on criminal law, in particular Gjakmarrja (literally ‘blood-taking’), which allows the revenge of blood feuds in a like for like manner; this means that any male member of the murderer’s family may be targeted for revenge by the family of the victim. During the communist years this tradition was virtually wiped out, however since the regime’s fall the number of blood feud cases has risen sharply.

The Peter Kirk Memorial fund made it possible for me to immerse myself in the culture documenting the mediators, who work to reconcile blood and living with the families in hiding. The work has now been awarded and exhibited internationally, none of which would have been possible without the support of the scholarship.

View Marco Kesseler's project portfolio >>

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Keith RufflesKeith Ruffles - 2012 Scholar

20 Years Later: attitudes towards the Soviet Union in the Baltic States

As a Peter Kirk Scholar I spent almost two months travelling throughout Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in an attempt to understand the Soviet legacy in the Baltic States. It’s been over twenty years since the USSR fell and it appears that a new generation has firmly embraced both their place in the EU and a rejection of all that once tied them to the East. Yet how easy would it be to uncover traces of the Soviet Union and would this manifest itself most obviously in infrastructure, the environment or in the people who continue to live in this outpost of north-eastern Europe?

The journey took me to virtually every corner of the Baltics; from the medieval streets of Tallinn in the far north to industrial Riga and baroque Vilnius, and from the green meadows and open skies of Saaremaa to the forbidding Russian borders at Narva and Nida. I met people from all works of life – students, academics, professionals, young, old and those somewhere in the middle – and I was genuinely surprised and heartened by the overwhelmingly positive response I received. Everyone seemed to have an opinion.

I learned a great deal during my time in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I discovered three countries that, although keen to make their presence felt in the 21st century, were still struggling to deal with their Soviet history. For the time being at least the ghosts of Lenin and Stalin still cast a shadow over Baltic soil.

Read Keith Ruffles' blog >>

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Thomas PascoeThomas Pascoe – 2010 Scholar

Walking the Via Francigena

I am immensely grateful for the sponsorship, friendship and encouragement offered by the Peter Kirk Fund, with which I was able to complete a walk between Canterbury and Rome on the via Francigena in the summer of 2010. This was an outstanding experience that gave me time to think, the independence to make of the trip the very best that I could and most of all the opportunity to gain intellectually by living in and thinking critically about Europe.

Without the generous help of the Peter Kirk Fund, I would not have been able to afford the commitment of time and money which the project required. This was a genuinely formative experience which will not only stay with me for the rest of my life, but also inform everything which happens from this point. I feel immensely privileged to have been able to devote such a period to something so exciting and unusual, and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Peter Kirk fund for helping me realise this dream. I would strongly encourage anyone considering applying to do so.

The influence of Peter Kirk as an individual in his own lifetime was to strengthen the bonds between Continental Europe and Britain. I can say with all sincerity that my experiences in the summer of 2010 allowed me a far greater sympathy both for the grand European project and for the people of the European Union. Mr Kirk’s legacy, then, truly extends and endures beyond his mortal life in the activities of the wonderful scholarship scheme which bares his name.

Read Thomas Pascoe's blog >>

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Ruth CandlishRuth Candlish – 2010 Scholar

Who are the indigenous in Europe? Why are the Sámi considered indigenous’ when the Basque are not?

As a Kirk Fund scholar, I lived in Kiruna, the northernmost town in town in Sweden, and Bilbao, the biggest city in the Basque Country, for two months. I had some unforgettable experiences from hiking in the midnight sun to eating reindeer to dancing in a Basque festival. Being in each region for a prolonged period meant I was able to get a real ‘feel’ for what life is like. I met people from so many different walks of life from semi-nomadic Sámi reindeer herders to African refugees living in Lapland to young Basque political activists. I was able to practice my language skills in Swedish and Spanish; something I rarely get to do living in Scotland. Having studied both the Basques and the Sámi at university, it was fascinating to actually visit these places and see life in action. My interest in European regional politics was totally cemented by my experiences. I’ve recently applied to do a Ph.D. in this field and I’m sure my Kirk Fund will be a great support to my application.

Travelling around northern Scandinavia gave me a real appreciation of how compact most of Europe really is. As a result, I’ve started travelling and visiting friends around the UK much more. Somehow the train to London doesn’t seem so long after spending 18 hours on a train from Stockholm to Kiruna. Before the Kirk Fund, I had not spent much time outside the UK. My Kirk trip was the first time I had travelled abroad alone and I gained a great deal of independence and confidence. In the six months since returning from my Kirk trip, I have already visited more places in the UK and Europe than I had in the previous six years. Perhaps most importantly, the Kirk Fund opened up the possibility of moving abroad, something I’ve always wanted to do. My Kirk trip has given me the confidence and experience to pursue this and I’ve recently submitted applications to study in Belgium, Hungary and the US

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Matilde Gawronski-Matilde Gawronski – 2010 Scholar

Life at the edges of Europe: a report on Lapland's and Sicily's remote life and tourism

As a Peter Kirk Scholar I travelled across Lapland, the northernmost region of Europe, covering three countries (Sweden, Norway and Finland) and several thousand kilometres. The Peter Kirk Fund enabled me to explore this vast area with a purpose, the study of remote life and tourism, and yet with the freedom any young, curious traveller would long to have. Being a scholar meant that I could introduce myself to those I met on my journey as a researcher as well as a traveller. Both local people and tourists responded very keenly to my questions and provided me with innumerable images and anecdotes, all of which contributed to my better understanding of the region.

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Ben WoodBen Wood – 2009 Scholar

French café culture: A microcosm of society?

Thanks to the Peter Kirk Memorial Fund I was able to spend two months in France studying French café culture. My trip was simply the best experience I have ever had. Having the scholarship allowed me the luxury of staying for long periods of time in both Paris and Aix en Provence and I really felt by the end that I had got an authentic experience of everyday French life. Having such clear objectives of what I was there to do meant that I felt confident to strike up conversations with people in any situation and as a result I was able to get far more information for my project, but also I was able to feel integrated into normality far more than I could have been as a regular traveller.

The time I spent actually in France was just superb and I had experiences that I will never forget, but I also made friends who I am still in contact with, vastly improved my language skills and, especially in the case of Paris, feel that I really know the ropes in a major European city. The skills that I learned in undertaking the project have also helped me hugely in my History degree, and the amount that I enjoyed writing my blog and report has helped my to think about the direction that I want to take my life in the future.

All in all, my experience of travelling with a Peter Kirk scholarship was remarkable. Not only was my trip the best way I can possibly think of the spend a summer, but the people from the organisation who helped me get my project together were some of the most interesting and inspiring that I have met. The experience that I had continues to offer me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise and gives me the confidence to take on new challenges.

Read Ben Wood's Report >>

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Rachael Clerke – 2009 Scholar

An Exploration of European Cabaret Culture in the 21st Century

In the summer of 2009 I travelled through France, Germany, Poland, Denmark and the UK investigating cabaret culture and the way that this varied subculture has changed to adapt to 21st Century audiences, something that I had become interested in whilst studying for my BA in Theatre. With the Peter Kirk Scholarship I was able to visit a huge number of venues in different countries, from the extremely traditional Au Lapin Agile in Paris to Berlin's forward thinking Chamaleon Variete. I also met with and interviewed cabaret performers and producers in Berlin, Krakow and Copenhagen, and had the opportunity to explore the rising popularity of cabaret and burlesque at the Edinburgh festival.

My research from that summer has influenced me immeasurably, prompting me to form a cabaret act which I now tour with and allowing me to explore new ways of interacting with an audience in my own performance work.

Read Rachael Clerke's website >>

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Sally CervenakSally Cervenak – 2008 Scholar

Environmental Education in Germany: Are you keen to be green?

With the Peter Kirk Scholarship I was able to spend two months in Germany working on a project entitled: "Environmental Education in Germany: Are you keen to be green?". Contrary to what I expected, it wasn't the opportunity to travel around Germany which I am most grateful to the scholarship for, but the incentive it gave me to force myself out of my comfort zone. I'll never forget pacing up and down high streets building up the nerve to conduct street surveys in a language I felt I barely understood!

In hindsight, without the scholarship I wouldn't have been half so involved in German life. From sitting on a mini wooden stool drinking hot chocolate surrounded by five year olds in a Forest Kindergarten in the middle of (no prizes for guessing) a German forest, to interviewing local councillors in governmental environmental departments, trekking across fields to reach remote wind farms and flying down the German autobahn faster than I might have liked with the local forest ranger...looking back I can't help but laugh at the randomness of it all. One things for certain - I'll never do anything quite the same ever again!

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Ruth TauberRuth Tauber – 2008 Scholar

In search of the ‘Duende’: Contemporary Arts in Andalusia

As a Peter Kirk Scholar I travelled to Seville in the Autumn of 2008 to research the concept of 'duende' in flamenco and art. Duende is the abstract quality many forms of art can have, but the term comes originally from Flamenco. Living in Spain was a great experience for many reasons, but most importantly it increased my confidence in my language, my writing and my research abilities.

The scholarship allowed me to immerse myself fully in Spanish, become fluent, and to engage with the vibrant and beautiful culture of Andalucia. I developed threads of research that are very much still at the forefront of my personal and professional life.

I had several exceptional experiences during my time in Spain including touring a disused Expo pavilion with a group of architects and learning Flamenco amongst true Andalucians. The freedom encouraged by the scholarship allowed me to explore avenues which would not otherwise have been open to me.

The confidence I gained during the project opened many doors for me. I have recently moved abroad for a second time, and am tackling an altogether different language and culture in Norway, something I would not have had the confidence to do without the Peter Kirk Fund Scholarship.

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Joanne TauberJoanne Tauber – 2008 Scholar

Food for Thought - An investigation into people’s attitudes towards buying, preparing and enjoying food in France and Germany.

The travel research project I undertook with support from the Peter Kirk scholarship, was an extremely valuable experience because it gave me the chance to put into practice a number of research techniques I learnt during my studies. One of the other objectives I had for the project was to spend time drawing, sketching, and on photography, all of which I later made use of in the project report.

Although I had already travelled abroad and studied under the support of design schools, the experience of travelling alone and being the 'manager' of my project (timescale, budget, organising accommodation, contacting people and organisations, etc.) was invaluable. The project enabled me to gain confidence in myself, especially whilst speaking different languages. The research project helped me take the first steps towards looking for my first job abroad. I currently live and work in France.

Read Joanne Tauber's Project Report >>

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